With the 2016 collector car auction season in the books, Block Chaser sat down with Antonio Brunet, chairman of Motostalgia, to get his perspective on the year that was and his predictions for the year to come.
Block Chaser: How would you sum up 2016 from a car collecting standpoint?
Antonio Brunet: It was a year that really generated a sense of tranquility in the market. It wasn’t the growth that we’d seen in the past two years, but there was a stabilization of the market, which was expected.
BC: If 2016 was a year of stability, what do you anticipate for 2017?
AB: I think it’s going to be a great year. Certain factors, politically and economically, are going to benefit tangible assets like collector cars. There is still some uncertainty in currency exchanges. It really makes investing in currency or the stock market much more of a gamble than [investing] in tangible assets like collector cars, so I expect cars will maintain, if not slowly increase, their value.
BC: Is there a category of cars that you believe is destined for bigger things and higher prices at auction, perhaps as soon as 2017?
AB: European sports cars have been dominating the market the last few years, but Asian sports cars are now gathering attention, not just from collectors and enthusiasts, but from a generation that now has the purchasing power to bring certain cars up to market.
BC: What specific models are we talking about?
AB: The Nissan 240Z, the Toyota 2000 and even the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Those cars are grabbing a lot of attention at this point, and they’re on the uptrend.
BC: Are there any other genres that you believe will be more popular in 2017 and beyond?
AB: Unknown, unrecognizable European sports cars. This particular genre excites me; I’ve been a fan of it for a long time. Lancia is the most recognizable, or Iso. Those brands—mostly Italian—that were coach-built in the 1950s and ‘60s and are of comparable, if not higher quality than Ferrari or Maserati.
It’s a very exciting market that’s historic and shows beautiful designs with similar coachwork to Ferrari and Maserati. It’s going to be a great market to follow in the next couple of years.
BC: What makes you think this is a category that’s on the rise?
AB: Two or three years ago, you could get a decent Maserati Merak for US $20,000 or US $30,000, but now they’ve doubled their price. To get in a good one, you’re spending US $60,000 or US $70,000.
The Maserati Merak and the Lancia Flavia are cars that were shown more interest in 2016, and there’s a lot more to follow. The Siatas and Iso Rivoltas are going to impress people and are finally going to get the recognition they deserve.
On the other end of the spectrum, the historic racing cars [from those same brands] are in the US $200,000 to US $400,000 market [right now], and I think in the recent future, they’ll be at the seven-figure mark. They deserve to be there.
BC: Were there any surprises during Motostalgia sales in 2016?
AB: The surprise at Amelia Island was a 1936 Cord 810 Westchester that sold for US $90,750. I think it’s a small sign that prewar cars are going to start coming back up. Prewar cars have been somewhat unappreciated for at least the last 10 years; it’s a genre that’s a great investment at this point. You can get a fantastic car for the low US $100,000s or the high US $80,000s or US $70,000s that should be worth twice the money if the market reflected the same appeal as the European sports cars. And eventually it will, because everything goes up and down.
BC: Did you see any trends in 2016 that suggest a particular genre, brand or model is regressing in value?
AB: Porsche saw such a tremendous spike two years ago — and even 12 months ago — it’s the brand that is stabilizing the most aggressively.
BC: Does that mean that the Porsche sector could be considered a buyer’s market?
AB: Like the Facebook option for relationship status, I would call it complicated. You see every example in the market—people who are asking way too much for their cars and people who didn’t compare their vehicle, which means it’s undervalued. It’s more of a connoisseur’s market. It really takes a connoisseur to differentiate between 911 models. If you know what you’re looking for, the deals are out there, but you have to get educated within that market to be able to play it properly. It’s not as simple as the Corvette or Mustang or even Ferrari market. Most 308 GTBs are 308 GTBs, but there are 10 or 15 variations of the 911 based on the year that they were built.
BC: Motostalgia produces live auctions as well as timed online auctions. What is your opinion of the online auction business?
AB: The online auction market has a lot of potential. It offers the opportunity to present the vehicle to a larger market, while at the same time it offers a risk of the car being lost in time and exposure.
At Amelia Island, for example, you have four hours during which we offer 85 cars, and potential buyers can focus their full attention on those cars over those four hours. Even though there’s a lot more eyes looking at a car over a five- or seven-day period online, the end of the auction isn’t tied down to a specific point in time. That’s a challenge in the online market that still needs to be tackled properly. We’re working on some new technologies and versions in 2017 that I think will help.
BC: In 2016, Motostalgia hosted four live auctions. Which one do you believe has the most potential for growth?
AB: 2016 was our first year in Watkins Glen, and I was tremendously impressed with the quality of the event overall. I think that event is going to continue to grow. It’s a re-creation of the races that happened in the early 1960s, and the town itself really embraces the car culture in a manner that’s very European. The whole town gets together in this festive automotive mode. They have a tiny little concours in downtown Watkins Glen—they only had maybe a dozen cars—but the quality of the cars was amazing. There was an original D Type, a Gullwing and some amazing Ferraris. It’s one of the best events in the country, and it’s somewhat unknown.
Photos courtesy of Motostalgia.